Part of the fun of being an automotive enthusiast is learning about the rare stuff, and I don't mean the flashy models. Audi is known for their S and RS sedans, rally heritage, and R8 supercar, but those are commonplace on online forums and the 'gram. Between the release of all of those cars, Audi has offered some funky limited editions and very enthusiast-targeted options packages that turned regular models into some of the least common Audis ever to leave Ingolstadt. Instead of going for the same B8.5 S4 as everyone else, try these overlooked models and set yourself apart from the crowd.
The A6 has been a staple in the European sedan market since the Audi 100 adopted the name. In that same timeframe, the S6 carried the performance flag, representing some of the fastest wagons from Germany. There is a considerable difference between the A6 and S6, with a price gapping to match, driven by the performance enhancements developed by Audi Sport. However, in 2017, Audi offered the A6 Competition. For an extra few thousand dollars, Audi fitted the A6 with a host of sporty and exclusive options at a hefty discount.
The C7 Audi A6 ran in production from 2012 to 2018, with a mid-model refresh for 2016. A6 models bearing the Competition label come in two varieties; the 2017 model year featured a specific “A6 Competition” model, while 2018 saw the “Competition package” available for Premium Plus and Prestige trims. Used prices have remained relatively tame for a model that regularly stickered for over seventy grand. Search your favorite used car website, and you’ll find the A6 Competitions sitting between $30-40,000 with about 40-60,000 miles on them—a relatively low price considering what it offers.
Every A6 Competition came equipped with Audi’s 3.0t engine and a ZF-built 8HP, eight-speed automatic. The former is a dual-overhead-camshaft V6 with a big supercharger stuffed between the cylinder banks. Peak numbers of 340 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque are respectable by today’s standards and are only the beginning for any A6 owner. With a few tweaks and new software, the 3.0t can produce as much power as the S6 without its twin-turbocharged V8. The eight-speed automatic is present in the A6 Comp and S6, and even though it still uses a torque converter, the 8HP is one of the most advanced gearboxes on the market, providing quick shifts and strong reliability. Tuning the automatic also raises the shift points, freeing up power and improving acceleration.
The rest of the Competition features include a handful of S6-esque additions. Shiny trim is universally regarded as not-sporty, so the window trim and grille get the black-out treatment from the Black Optics package. Red-painted calipers are the same size as the non-competition models but are shown off more thanks to the S6’s 19” wheels. Inside, black leather with contrasting red stitching makes up most of the interior’s touch surfaces, including the flat-bottom S-Line steering wheel. Exclusive to the Comp are the S6’s body-hugging front and rear seats dressed in diamond-stitch leather, albeit sans S-logos in the headrests. You’ll need those, as the sticky summer tires, lower/stiffer sports suspension, and torque-vectoring Sport Differential all improve the A6’s cornering performance.
Overall, any C7 A6 sporting the supercharged 3.0t V6 is a quick and very comfortable daily. But only the Competition will add the extra bit of flair and aggression shown, but Audi’s performance models at a reduced rate. An S6 will typically run about $15,000 more than an A6 Competition with similar miles. With that extra money, you tune the engine and transmission, add some flashy wheels or a cool wrap, and still have a pile of cash left over to pay the insurance that’ll be less expensive than the S6’s.
The Ultrasport B6 & B9 A4
Making something special without blurring established trim lines can be tricky, but Audi has proven that it can do so without any hassle. The 2004 A4 Ultrasport was the most aggressive A4 you could buy, slotting just under the S4. A revised exterior, suspension system, and interior allowed owners to experience the sportiness of the S4 without its temperamental V8. Recently, Audi has revived the name and the model, reimagining the Ultrasport in a much more modern package.
While both carry the Ultrasport moniker, the two A4s have very different availability. The newer Ultrasport is based around the 2018 B9 A4, and Audi set aside only the last 40 chassis for production. The earlier car is based on the B6 chassis and was offered between 2004 and 2006 without a limit on production. As such, the earlier Ultrasport should be more available and less expensive. B6 Ultrasports will be challenging to find, but expect around $15,000 for a clean, manual-equipped model when you do. The B9 Ultrasport is much rarer and significantly newer, so prices will be close to the MSRP.
Audi's small sedan has always been a European tuner car. Their never-ending supply of turbocharged engines has built a legacy, and the B6 A4 Ultrasport is right in the middle of that. As a buyer in 2005, you had a choice of engine; the turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four or a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated V6. With 170 hp and 230 hp, respectively, they were relatively peppy in their day but kept well below the power of the B6 S4's V8. The majority of examples you'll find will have the 1.8 as it was offered for longer and was less expensive to acquire—great news if you're looking to go a bit faster. The turbocharged power plant has a large aftermarket following with lots of support for power modifications. The V6 isn't as lucky, so plan accordingly. Both engines were given the option of the five-speed Tiptronic automatic or a six-speed manual.
The 2018 A4 Utrasport wasn't given the same treatment. Under the hood of each example is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that produces 252 hp mated to only a six-speed manual transmission. The basis for the Ultrasport revival was the death of the manual transmission in Audi's America-bound sedans. ACNA wouldn't let the manual-equipped A4 go quietly into the night, so the Ultrasports were commissioned as a last hurrah. Like the older car, they featured sporty and luxurious options included at a lesser cost. Every B9 USP was painted Quantum Grey and wore the S4's five-blade wheels, titanium black trim package, and carbon accents on the trunk spoiler and mirror caps. Black leather and Alcantara upholstery with contrasting stitching keep the occupants securely in their aggressively-bolstered front seats inside the cabin. Rounding out both the comfort and sports options is the adaptive sport suspension, capable of tuning its firmness to the driver's preference.
The older model was available as a sedan or as an Avant wagon and in several exterior colors. Black window and grille trim adorn every B6 USP, but there aren’t any carbon bits. The bumpers are a USP exclusive, and Audi paired them with the S4's door blades and the RS4's 18" "Celebration" wheels. Every B6 Ultrasport has a black leather interior with the BOSE surround system.
You don't have to be ultra-intuitive to see why Audi faithful still loves the B6 USP. The classic round shape and turn-of-the-millennium design bring back memories of days past when the most prominent choice you might have to make was between Motorola and Nokia. While sharing the Ultrasport name, the new car could be just as memorable if not for its minimal production. Will VAG enthusiasts look back on it with the same reverence as the B6? Only time will tell, but if the current market is any indicator, I'd get my hands on one now while still possible.
Audi TT ALMS Edition + Audi TT Neiman Marcus Edition
The Audi TT didn’t hit its stride as a performance platform until its second generation. However, the first-gen car in its quattro form gave buyers a unique-looking and sporty package for little money. These days the 8N TT still isn’t much of a performance platform, but it is entering a somewhat classic status. Its design perfectly represents the era and is lucky enough to have aged gracefully, unlike some competitors. Without any exclusive performance variant, set your sights on one of the limited editions offered in the US.
Debuting first was the Neiman Marcus edition TT in 2000. The idea was to promote Neiman Marcus with this limited 100-example run of TTs available only through the NM catalog. All NM editions shared identical specifications, differing only by the example number attached to the plaque on the dashboard. Audi’s turbocharged 1.8-liter, five-valve inline-four mated to a five-speed manual powered only the TT’s front wheels with 180 hp—though performance isn’t the focus of this special edition. Walking past the polished aluminum wheels and opening the Nimbus Grey door revealed a two-tone interior trimmed in Mocassin Red Nappa leather. Nearly every available option other than navigation and phone controls was configured on the NM editions, including the BOSE surround speaker system, Xenon headlights, and heated seats.
All examples of the US-exclusive NM edition made it into customers’ hands for around $35,000 back in 1999/2000, but you’ll pay hardly close to that if you can find one today. Besides the unique paint and interior, they’re just another Mk1 TT, so secondhand prices have remained relatively low. Unless you’re buying a low-mile showroom quality example, expect to see asking prices below $10,000. If anything, they’ll be closer to the $5-8k range. If you can get one for that in decent condition, it’s one of the more obscure Audis from the era and will surely win you some internet points. However, the ALMS edition Audi TT from 2002 will do just the same with a sportier demeanor.
Created to celebrate Audi's success in the American Le Mans Series, the ALMS edition was more than the appearance package that was the NME. Each ALMS car was a TT quattro that utilized the same turbocharged 1.8-liter of the NME but with an extra 45 hp, thanks to some mechanical differences. As the name implies, that power was distributed to all four wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox with a Haldex center differential sending the power rearward. Of 1000 made, half were delivered in Misano Red paint over Silver Gray Nappa leather; the other half were delivered in Avus silver sporting Brilliant Red Nappa leather. The same audio and convenience packages from the NME were also fitted as standard on the ALMS, giving it the BOSE audio and heated front seats.
The ALMS isn't necessarily more collectible or valuable than the NME, but its extra horsepower and AWD should make it more fun to drive on a backroad. Values aren't too dissimilar to the NME, though they will be higher. This Avus silver example with 88,00 miles sold for just over $16,000 in June of 2022. Considering BaT pricing, expect to see asking prices between the $8-15,000 mark for a well-kept car with some miles on it. For a relatively fun little car that is sure to put smiles on faces, both special editions are great entry-level choices for Audi faithful.
Audi R8 e-tron
Here’s a thought we’ve all had before: “Now that I have a few hundred thousand dollars to play with, what obscure version of a very popular supercar can I buy to stand out from the crowd?” While there are plenty of options, the R8 e-tron will likely blow all the others away. Why? Well, after just a year of sales, Audi pulled the plug with around 100 sold. In an age where the Porsche Taycan and Audi RS e-tron GT are becoming genuine performance options, the old R8 e-tron is a rare glimpse back into the early development of electric sports cars.
Unfortunately for us on this side of the globe, we weren’t allowed to buy one of the electric R8s. Not that it was much easier to buy in Europe as they were available only upon request through Audi corporate. Supposedly less than a hundred of the charged R8s ever left the Audi Neckarsulm plant in Germany at around a million Euros apiece, and only a few have ever been seen in the wild since. How anyone would go about buying one, I don’t know, but expect prices to sit well beyond what owners originally paid for them.
In place of the high-revving, naturally-aspirated V10 included in every other R8 is a massive liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. The bulk of the pack sat in—what would be—the engine bay up against the interior bulkhead, with the rest of it extending under the center console where the drive shaft would normally be. At 1300 lbs, the batteries made up an enormous portion of the car’s weight, but thanks to extensive carbon and aluminum use, the 4059 lbs curb weight was relatively light. The T-shaped battery pack carried a capacity of 90.3kWh and, when driven civilly, offered owners a range of nearly 280 miles. Two electric motors on the rear axle provided forward thrust, breaking from the norm of the all-wheel-drive R8.
Despite the portly curb weight, the battery pack and electric motors provided plenty of shove to keep the R8 in the same performance space as most sports/supercars of the day. Peak performance figures of 456 hp and 679 lb-ft of torque zapped the R8 e-tron to 62mph in 3.9 seconds—quicker than its V10-powered sibling. Matching that speed was the R8’s ability to reach full charge. The Combined Charging System fitted to the e-tron GTs was present in 2015 and could get the battery pack topped up in 95 minutes on a 50kW fast charger.
Thanks to the electric motors, it was also as lively through the bends as its ICE siblings. Their independence allowed the car’s computer system to read the oversteer/understeer behavior and split torque between the axles for unrivaled agility. It’s the same kind of ability that Audi’s modern e-tron benefits from but in a lighter package.
Of all the Audis that might be overlooked, this is the only one whose anonymity was driven by its rarity. All others can be researched heavily with insights from past owners, viewed in public, and found for sale without too much of a hassle. The 2015 R8 e-tron doesn’t connect with any of those facets, but it still deserves to be known. It was a bold and possibly successful experiment whose data has undoubtedly played a role in developing this new generation of electric cars. Whoever was lucky and brave enough to order one back in the day, we salute you.
Audi D2 S8
If anyone were ever to make a list of great movie car chases, there are a few that are no-brainers; Bullit, Vanishing Paint, The French Connection, and so on. Though on those same lists, you'll likely see Ronin, a spy thriller featuring De Niro and Jean Reno, among others. Ronin's car chases feature some of the best sports sedans in Europe at the time, and among them was a Racing Green Pearl 1998 Audi S8. Since the movie was released, Audi's S-models have become a staple in the European car scene, yet the original S8 is hardly mentioned. A shame considering what they offer for the money.
The D2 S8 was the first of Audi's executive sedans to wear the S badging. They first appeared on US shores for the 2001 model year, and less than 2000 were sold by the end of production in 2003. Owners tended to be Audi enthusiasts who weren’t afraid to put miles on them. Most models for sale in the US today will have well over 100,000 miles and will appear pretty used. Expect asking prices around the $12,000 mark for spotless driver-quality cars with lower miles. More mileage and a rougher cosmetic condition will drop the value towards the $5000 range, but don't be surprised if you find one for less.
Putting the S in S8 was Audi's 40-valve, naturally-aspirated 4.2-liter V8. All the facelifted models sent to the US benefitted from the updated engine's five valves per cylinder, larger camshafts, and variable valve timing that the earlier models didn't get. Peak numbers of 360 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque were impressive in its day and still make for a quick car considering the S8's size—though the real benefit to its engine is its reliability. The S8 uses a timing belt mounted on the front of the engine, which is more reliable and accessible to service than the later timing chain systems. Belt changes are critical, needing replacement every 75,000 miles or so, but proper maintenance ensures a life well beyond 150,000.
The biggest downside to any North American S8 is its transmission. Unsurprisingly, Europeans could choose between the Tiptronic automatic and a six-speed manual in their luxury sports sedan, while all we received was the slushbox. The Tip was initially praised for its quick shifts and smooth operation, but they have since gained a bad reputation. Audi experts say a Tiptronic failure isn't a matter of if but when. The expected breaking point comes around 100,000 miles, so more than a few examples have had fixes performed or replacements installed. Beyond that, though, there is little to worry about besides poor gas mileage. If you're determined to modify the S8, swap the Tip for a manual. You'll need the right factory parts from Europe for a clean swap without extensive modification.
Regardless of what transmission ends up in the car, you'll be wrapped in luxury. Leather upholstery covered most surfaces as standard, while wood trim was everywhere. Audi even trimmed the door panels Alcantara as standard, and if the Leather/Alcantara upholstery option was selected, so too were the seat centers, headliner, and parcel shelf. The front seats were the sport type and always came heated; the rears were heated with the Cold Weather package. Other items like a 200-watt BOSE audio system, LED ambient lighting, a solar panel sunroof, and automatic dual-zone climate control were optional.
Adding the sportiness to all of that luxury was the sport suspension. Shorter springs with a 30% stiffer spring rate and dampers with a 40% higher compression rate provided a 20mm lower ride height. Thicker sway bars provided a bit of extra roll resistance to compliment the revised damping package and gave the S8 genuine cornering confidence.
Of course, none of that matters if you don't like how it looks, although that’d be an unpopular opinion. There’s a simplistic charm from the Audis around this time; free of crazy angles and lights shooting lasers, the S8’s clean and rounded lines have aged wonderfully. But it’s still a twenty-year-old European sports luxury sedan with a suspect transmission at the end of the day. None of those attributes are cheap, let alone grouped together, but the S8 is still worth some consideration. Life is short, and gasoline engines are on their way out. You wouldn't buy it because it's sensible; no one buys an old Audi for sensibility. You'd buy it because of your ear-to-ear grin produced by the V8’s 7000rpm redline or the flashes of Ronin running through your head. It'd be a purchase for the soul, a kind we so few get to make in the age of inflation, even though we could all desperately use one.
If you can’t or won’t pick up one of these overlooked models, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good choices out there. More popular Audi models will give the same amount of joy, if not more, than these overlooked models while still having their unique qualities. It really doesn’t matter what you drive as long as you enjoy yourself. But if you want something fun to tinker around with, why not make it more unique? As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along on the DIY Blog for more daily content!
Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a flat-six-swapped Subaru Impreza and a ratty Porsche 914.